Virtuoso trumpeter Alison Balsom makes her long-awaited return to recording with Royal Fireworks, a collection of beloved Baroque classics and new arrangements released worldwide on 8 November 2019 on Warner Classics.
Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest trumpeters of her generation, Alison Balsom has established a multi-faceted career as an in-demand soloist on the international concert stage, a passionate educator and spokesperson for music education and a curator; including her recent successful tenure as Artistic Director of the 75th Cheltenham Music Festival in 2019.
Royal Fireworks marks the continuation of Balsom’s long-term partnership with Warner Classics, being her thirteenth solo release for the label and her first since 2016’s Jubilo. In addition to the birth of her second child and marriage to the film and theatre director Sam Mendes, in the intervening years, Alison Balsom has maintained her performing career and developed, conceived and implemented her vision as Artistic Director of an international festival.
This all-Baroque album sees Balsom perform on the natural (valveless) trumpet and features concertos and orchestral masterpieces by Handel, JS Bach, Telemann and Purcell. A pioneer of adapting works written for other solo instruments, Balsom is committed to demonstrating the versatility of the trumpet and Royal Fireworks features three new orchestrations by arranger Simon Wright.
Baroque repertoire and the natural trumpet are long-held passions for Alison Balsom. Performed with the Balsom Ensemble, a hand-picked ensemble of world-class period instrument specialists, Royal Fireworks not only captures Balsom’s virtuosity on the natural trumpet, but also her delight in making music as a group with like-minded colleagues.
Alison Balsom comments:
“I’ve been making recordings for almost 20 years and this has been by far the most enjoyable recording experience I’ve had.’. ‘The music is full of utter joy and magic, the versions we play are often new, and in some cases quite maverick. The thrill of recording with some of the greatest artists around, all of us on Baroque instruments, who happen to also be my good friends, has been a privilege. I hope the pleasure we got from playing this music comes across on our album.”
The album opens with Music for the Royal Fireworks, Handel’s instantly recognisable seven-movement showpiece for court instruments in a new orchestration by arranger Simon Wright. This is a work Balsom has performed in many settings, from international concert halls to a field at the Latitude Festival, and this new version demonstrates her mastery of the trumpet both as a solo instrument and as a partner to other Baroque trumpet virtuosos, such as Wolfgang Gaisböck and David Blackadder.
The first of two Purcell pieces then follows: his Sonata for Trumpet and Strings in D major with Balsom as soloist, followed by a new orchestration of JS Bach’s cantata Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Simon Wright. Balsom performs Telemann’s Trumpet Concerto, which is followed by Simon Wright’s new orchestration of JS Bach’s uplifting Christmas Oratorio. The album closes with the second Purcell piece; four movements from his reflective Funeral Sentences for the death of Queen Mary II.
Audiences at this summer’s Snape Proms were treated to a preview of the album’s repertoire in a sell-out concert performed by Balsom and the Balsom Ensemble, and in December 2019 they perform the programme on a six-date tour of Germany. In the UK, Alison Balsom is Artist-In-Residence at the Barbican’s Milton Court for 2019-20, where concerts will include Dominic Dromgoole’s Gabriel with The English Concert and Harry Bicket, a tribute to Miles Davis’s concept album Sketches of Spain, and music from Purcell to Birtwistle with Britten Sinfonia. The residency also sees Balsom perform with jazz musicians and a chorus from her alma mater the Guildhall School. Other live performances in the UK include Thea Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto (composed for Balsom) with the CBSO at Symphony Hall Birmingham on 2 October.
Alison Balsom is the recipient of a Gramophone Award for Artist of the Year, three Classic BRIT Awards, a Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef Award and has performed as soloist at the Last Night of the Proms. In 2016 she was awarded the OBE for services to music. Royal Fireworks with the Balsom Ensemble is set to become a milestone recording in a successful and ever-evolving career.
Alison Balsom is the cover star of the latest issue of the German classical music magazine Concerti.
The British trumpet virtuoso talks about her latest album Jubilo, as well as the need to make classical music accessible for adults and children alike.
"I didn't record a traditional christmas album," she explains. "I've always been fascinated by Bach's chorales - that's why I absolutely wanted to record them." For these, including the beloved Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, the voice of the trumpet is joined in an uplifting chorus by the excellent Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and its director Stephen Cleobury.
"But those chorales alone weren't enough for me," Balsom continues, "So I added baroque music by Fasch, Torelli and Corelli to Bach's work."
Jubilo, Alison Balsom's Baroque Christmas album, recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music, is out now.
Jubilo, a festive programme of music by J.S. Bach and his contemporaries Handel, Corelli, Torelli and Fasch, marks Alison Balsom’s return to the Baroque repertoire she explored in her 2012 album Sound the Trumpet.
“The music is glorious; so is Balsom’s artistry,” was The Times’ view on Sound the Trumpet, while the BBC Music Magazine judged the album to contain “some of the most imaginative and polished trumpet playing you're ever likely to hear.”
The British trumpeter, who recently received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in recognition of her services to music, commands a wide and adventurous repertoire – as she showed in her last Warner Classics release, Légende, an imaginative collection of works for trumpet and piano from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Baroque era, when the trumpet achieved a new and resplendent sophistication, holds a special place in her heart. “Whenever I am playing Baroque music, I think ‘I could happily do this for the rest of my life’,” she has said. She feels that the natural (valveless) trumpet, as used in the early 18th century, produces “a much more raw and visceral sound” than the valve trumpet, which opened up a host of new possibilities when it arrived on the scene 100 or so years later.
On Jubilo she plays both incarnations of the instrument: where the works are accompanied by an orchestra (the Academy of Ancient Music directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk) she has chosen the natural trumpet, while the modern trumpet is her preferred instrument for the pieces accompanied by the organ. The organist is Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge. The college’s famous choir – known around the world for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols that is broadcast every Christmas Eve – also features on Jubilo, which was recorded at two historic venues, King’s College itself and the church of St Jude-on-the-Hill in north-west London, designed by the great Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
The involvement of the young King’s College choristers has a special significance: the college is famous as an institution that nurtures the professional singers of the future and Alison Balsom is passionately committed to the cause of music education. She sees each concert as an opportunity to draw people into music: “I hope to achieve two things – that some people will discover that the trumpet is something they like, even if they weren’t sure before … and that people who come to hear one particular piece are also going to end up discovering something new."
The celebratory Jubilo, with its rich programme of Baroque music, ranging from the dazzlingly triumphant to the consolingly serene, is undoubtedly an album with a palette of colour that will prove life-enhancing – in the festive season and far beyond.
Alison Balsom's Christmas album Jubilo, featuring The Academy of Ancient Music and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, is out now.
Trumpet virtuoso Alison Balsom has launched her new album Légende with her longterm duo partner Tom Poster at the piano, at an exclusive event hosted by Times+ at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Undoubtedly Britain's most beloved poster girl for classical music, Balsom and Poster played a short concert for The Times readers, followed by a Q&A session meeting fans.
The Mail on Sunday, meanwhile, has declared Légende "a winner", praising "Balsom's brass with class" and the "remarkable range of music" explored in this unique recital album.
Légende: Works for Trumpet and Piano is available now.
At a launch event hosted by Times+ at London's Royal Albert Hall last night, Alison Balsom unveiled her new album Légende. With longtime duo partner Tom Poster at her side, the album explores what Balsom describes as "the most important repertoire for trumpet and piano", from Ravel to Bernstein.
The trumpet star was heard in interview with Neil Fisher, Deputy Arts Editor of The Times, and answered questions about the new album. It was also the moment to announce 'Alison Balsom and Friends', in which the Royal Albert Hall gives carte blanche to Balsom for a momentous concert in March 2017, headlined by the beloved virtuoso and Royal Albert Hall Regular, along with her special guests.
Légende - the new recital album, is out 13 May.
Trumpeter star Alison Balsom has a rich Warner Classics catalogue, but her forthcoming release Légende will be her first recital album with piano – recorded live in concert with her long-standing chamber music partner Tom Poster.
Balsom describes the programme as embracing “the most important repertoire for trumpet and piano” – taking a fascinating journey from 20th-century works by such composers as Enescu, Hindemith, Martinů, Françaix, Bernstein and Maxwell Davies to ‘American Songbook’ encores by George Gershwin and Jerome Kern.
But perhaps the most surprising inclusion is the world-premiere recording of a work composed by Balsom and Poster themselves. Entitled The Thoughts of Dr. May, it is inspired by another British musician: Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen – also, as it happens, an astrophysicist.
The recital was recorded live in concert at St George’s, an elegant former church built in the 1820s by the architect of London’s Royal Opera House and located on a hillside in the city of Bristol in the west of England. Balsom explains that she has been wanting to record the programme for more than ten years. Excited about making a live recording – a process she describes as pressured, yet focused – she would like to make more in the future.
Poster explains that the pair of them decided to create The Thoughts of Dr. May because the repertoire for trumpet and piano is relatively small; the rhapsodic piece, built on a long-breathed melody, has grown organically over a number of years.
That sense of exploration and discovery is symptomatic of Balsom’s open and imaginative approach to making music. “I have really eclectic taste in music and it’s interesting to see where that takes me,” she says. “The trumpet is one of the most versatile instruments … I realised from early on that it wasn’t just a trumpet, it was a voice that could seemingly do anything. You can play almost any genre. I used to be jealous of those musicians who had Brahms and Beethoven, but actually now I see the limitation of the trumpet repertoire as an opportunity to go down paths that people haven’t explored before and I relish that."
The BBC Proms' 2015 programme has finally been announced, promising a summer of superb concerts and broadcasts for music lovers.
This star-studded classical line-up includes Proms favourites like British trumpeter Alison Balsom, who returns with a world premiere BBC commission from Guy Barker, The Lanterne of Light. The pair had a hit last year with their collaboration on Balsom's most recent album, Paris.
The John Wilson Orchestra follow the resounding succses of last year's Kiss Me Kate Cole Porter another concert in a smooth mood; this time a tribute to crooner Frank Sinatra starring Seth MacFarlane (the creator and principal vocalist behind the ever-popular animated series Family Guy). One of the most beloved Proms regulars, the orchestra performs for its second program of the year a concert dedicated to Leonard Bernstein.
Another British orchestra of a different bent, the Aurora Orchestra is a young and dynamic group that made a splash at their Proms debut in 2014 when they performed Mozart's Symphony No.40 entirely and collectively from memory. This time they perform Pastoral symphonies by composers as Beethoven and the Australian Brett Dean. The ensemble released their Warner Classics debut, Road Trip, early 2015.
French pianist David Fray, who made his Proms debut in 2011, is the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No.24, as part of an adventurous program featuring Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin and Shostakovich's rarely performed, incomplete opera Orango.
A focus on the music of Pierre Boulez in his 90th birthday year, a Sibelius cycle for that composer's 150th anniversary, and a piano-lovers' feast with such distinguished artists as Leif Ove Andsnes, Maria João Pires and the Labèque sisters, there's more to look forward to than ever at this year's BBC Proms.
Full programme here. Booking opens on 16 May. The Proms runs from 17 July to 12 September and will be broadcast on BBC 3.
Presenting the 2014 Best of Warner Classics & Erato (Classica Label of the Year) on Spotify.
We marveled at Joyce DiDonato's "creamy tones effortlessly whipped into endless, kaleidoscopic threads of melody" (The Sunday Times) on her Italian opera recital Stella di Napoli, which made several major Best of 2014 lists.
The extraordinary coloratura soprano Diana Damrau delivered her long-awaited first recording of Lucia di Lammemoor, while French Handel specialist Emmanuelle Haïm enlisted a stunning British cast of soloists for her highly-praised Messiah: "Their Hallelujah is magnificent...One of the most dramatic and exciting Messiahs in recent memory.” (The Sunday Times)
Catch up on these unmissable releases and discover the year's finest classical offerings in our Best of 2014 Spotify Playlist.
The year also brought two of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken at the famous Abbey Road studios: Herbert von Karajan's complete orchestral and choral recordings for EMI, painstakingly remastered over 100 CDs for the 25th anniversary of the maestro's death; and the most talked about boxed set of the year: the Maria Callas Remastered Edition.
Wishing you a tuneful holiday season ready for all the musical surprises coming up in 2015!